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Hotel Quinta da Casa Branca (Funchal, Portugal)

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Address: Estalagem Quinta da Casa Branca, Rua da Casa Branca 7, 9000-088 Funchal, Madeira / Tel: (00 351) 291 700 770 / World Region: Europe

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      28.12.2010 18:58
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      A fantastic little hideaway

      Quinta da Casa Branca was my five star base for my recent visit to Madeira. The holiday itself was a last minute affair, booked about two weeks before departure. We selected the 43 bedroom hotel specifically for its small size, accepting that there might be slightly less features than in a massive hotel, but we would rather have had a more peaceful surrounding. In any event the five star rating and also ranked as one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, we felt this would be a special treat. We did book a package holiday, something I have done on about 2 other occasions in my life. The price for two adults, late November, including flexible dining (3 nights half board), Bed and Breakfast, flights from Manchester, airport parking, and taxi transfer was £1222 for two adults for one week. I had checked direct pricing from their website - http://www.quintacasabranca.pt - but there was very little in it in terms of savings, and it was easier to have the one stop shop. We arrived at the hotel around 8pm, following a transfer time of around 25 minutes, and our check in was straightforward. We were the only guests arriving on our particular flight and were greeted by name. However, wherever we went in the hotel for the remainder of our stay, all staff automatically greeted us and knew our room number automatically - granted the hotel was not fully occupied, but I get the feeling this is the normal standard of service at the hotel. The hotel is about 20-25 minutes walk from the town centre, and a similar distance from the Lido area, all downhill. (Madeira is a very hilly place!) However there are several international (cuisine) and local cuisine restaurants within five minutes walk, particularly on the walk down to the Lido. Two bus routes run right past the hotel, and many others at the bottom of the first hill, and it is easy enough to get into town and back. A taxi trip back up the hill was approximately 5 EUR. The accommodation at Casa Branca is mostly on one level, with rooms overlooking the gardens and with their own patio area. The room itself had all the features that would be expected of a five star hotel, and was nicely decorated although it is the grounds and the public areas that make Casa Branca the hidden gem that it is. We enjoyed a complimentary bottle of local red wine in our room on arrival, which was most appreciated. The mini bar was reasonably priced. The shower was a dustbin lid type showerhead over the bath, and the complimentary toiletries, while not a brand I am familiar with, did feel like they were of a reasonable quality. Housekeeping was carried out daily and there was never a shortage of spa/pool towels as well as the regular bath towels. The double wardrobe was ample for our clothing for the week, and I found the interior light a well thought out touch. We were on half board for three nights, and it was great to see that the Restaurant da Casa Branca was in the top ten lists in the main guidebooks for food on the island. AS we were on an inclusive menu, I didn't get to peruse the a la carte menu too closely, however the table d'hote menu was fantastic on all three nights, the choice was rather limited with only two options for each course, (a meat and a fish dish for main) however the quality was exceptional, in keeping with a fine dining restaurant. The wine list was fairly extensive, and was comprised purely of Portugese wines, we typically paid £25 EUR for a bottle, although these did vary quite significantly, that price being reasonable entry level price for a restaurant of this calibre. I didn't see a vegetarian option on the inclusive menu, however. Breakfast is taken in the Garden Pavilion Restaurant, which is adjacent to the Quinta, and also in a separate building from rest of hotel. The buffet choice was ample, and there was also an a la carte breakfast choice which included omelettes, pancakes, and eggs to order, which we opted for each day - all included in the normal tariff. The Garden Pavilion was also open for lunch, which we enjoyed on two days, choices being sandwiches, salads and pasta. The hotel had a third bar/restaurant in the main hotel - the Deck Bar. This was a simple bar close to reception, which was at a raised level to the bedrooms, and the glass walls meant there were exceptional views of the mountains and down to the sea below. I have to recommend the home made scones, these are made to order, meaning there is a 20 minute delay - something I don't think I have ever experienced before for a scone, but it was worth the wait , and reasonably priced at 4.50 EUR for two scones with jam and cream, ideal to share. The Deck Bar also offered a full afternoon tea menu. Finally a further large lounge provided a perfect area for relaxation, and included a library area for books and games and complimentary internet access via the hotel computer. If you are looking for a holiday with some peace and quiet, then this hotel offers this in spades. Granted this was not top season, but we rarely found any areas of the hotel crowded, and in fact enjoyed the Spa/Gymnasium/Jacuzzi areas (indoor) and the outdoor pool area to ourselves on almost every occasion we used them. The real uniqueness of this hotel though, is in its design and landscaping. When approaching the hotel it is easy to wonder where in fact the rooms are, as they blend gently in to the landscape. The gardens are lush and full of fantastic flowers and plants from all over the world, but are dominated by Bird of Paradise plants, and Aloe Vera plants as well as Banana plantations. Gardeners are extremely thorough in their weeding of the main lawn areas, so particular that they could take all day to cover a relatively small area, ensuring that they look absolutely perfect. The pool area is practically hidden away and surrounded by wonderful plants, but it still incorporates fantastic facilities including sun loungers, showers, and a lovely sitting area. Even some of the public lavatories within the hotel have glass ceilings, giving a real feeling of outdoors while simply sitting on the lav! To summarise, while this hotel was a little more expensive than the other two options we considered, and was also slightly further away from town, the unique peaceful surroundings, and top notch food and service made it worth paying a little extra.

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